Foodie Engineer Visits Rachael Ray (Day 1)

After my journey of becoming one of the 3 finalists for The Rachael Ray Show’s First Culinary Tuition Competition, I was invited to New York City to compete for the final prize of Culinary School Tuition to International Culinary Center, formerly The French Culinary Institute.

In my last post, I shared the entire process of how I was selected as a finalist.  In this post I wanted to bring you along on my 2 day visit to The Rachael Ray Show.

Let me start by saying I have a great appreciation for the tv production and directing process.  There is a great deal of waiting involved in recording just a few minutes of great tv.  When I arrived the night before call time I was way more calm than I had been earlier in the day at work.  I was a nervous wreck, I couldn’t focus on anything but wonder, what the show producers had planned for us, all unknown to us (the finalists) of course.  I had a late flight in to the city, so I walked the streets of my favorite city to find some food and relax before the next morning’s activities began.

My boyfriend came to the hotel in the morning to send me off to the first day of taping, we weren’t able to bring anyone with us to the taping activities.  The first day I met one of the show’s team members and the other finalist in the lobby of the hotel that we stayed at.  We got in an SUV with a driver to go, who knows where, we were left in the dark.  As we approached SoHo, I knew exactly where we were heading, but I didn’t want to ruin it for my new friends (the contestants).  We were parked up the block from The International Culinary Center for what seemed like an hour, while the cameras and sound got set up.  Once it was confirmed that we were going to visit the ICC, the nerves kind of all boiled into great excitement.  We entered the Institute and were greeted by one of the Chef’s of the school Chef Candy Argondizza the Vice President of Culinary and Pastry Arts.  Chef Candy toured us through all of the floors and the famous hallways of the ICC.  We got to see the extensive culinary library, the classrooms, which were kitchens, and finally the hallway of hand prints of several of the chefs that have visited the schools.  I was so excited to put my hands in Chef Jacques Pépin’s hand prints.

Little did I know, not sixty minutes later I was going to be surprised, with meeting Chef Jacques Pépin.  And not only was I going to meet this member of culinary royalty, I was getting a cooking lesson from him.  After I got a kiss on the cheek from this culinary legend, we proceeded to wait for the kitchens to be set up for the segment.  The segment included Chef Pépin cooking 3 dishes with a select amount of ingredients.  It took him a total of 25 minutes to make everything.  He made 2 dishes with all parts of the chicken, and finally a dessert of apples caramelized in sugar.  I wish I got photo’s but we ate it, immediately and the producers and crew finished it off.

Star Struck

Star Struck

To wrap up the time in the kitchen, we were presented with our first challenge in the finals.  We were challenged with a basket of ingredients (potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and asparagus) to make at least one dish using all ingredients and we had to have 2 of each.  I am not sure how the points shook out, but I know I had a good effort put forth, by doing a dish with dark meat and a slightly gummy potato puree, and white meat with pan roasted potato and carrots, and slightly burnt mushrooms.  Take a look at the cooking competition footage on my youtube channel Foodie Engineer.  Once that challenge was over, we had hours and hours of taping interviews.  Imagine chopped and the confession like interview.  I was asked several questions in the present tense as if I was in the kitchen cooking right then, and I had to give answers to provide footage for the editors.  Very cool process.  We wrapped taping at midnight and were set for call time the next morning, so I woke up pretty tired the next morning.  The next post will be the conclusion of the experience and I will share the great learnings and my plans going forward.

Thanks again, for riding with me on this journey.

Foodie Engineer

Tuition Competition

One day in early March, I got a text from my sister Ask Dr. Renee This text was very common since we are either texting here and there throughout the day or calling each other at the end of the day.  This specific text said check your email.  When I got around to checking my email after work that day, I saw a link for the Rachael Ray Show.  I clicked on the link and it was a video of Rachael Ray announcing the show’s Culinary Tuition Competition.  Immediately I was intrigued.  The final prize was International Culinary Center tuition, and a 5 day culinary vacation in Cancun.  I have to tell you if all that was required was an essay on why I should be the winner, I would have been all over it instantly.  But after reading the entire process, I understood that the first round would require I make a video.  Now I don’t have my usual crew with me here in Valdosta, I have a DSLR, that I hadn’t used a ton, and never used it for video, and I have a tripod that was still in the box.  So in mind, I thought , “Okay, there really isn’t anything stopping me.”  The rules required that I send a video in about why I need a fresh start in career, and include me cooking my favorite meal.  I whipped up my lamb chops, cauliflower mash, and brussels sprouts.  I shared on the video how I felt about my career path, and sent the video in with a prayer of something that brought change to my life, what ever that looked like.

baby chops

Lamb Chops with brussels sprouts and cauliflower puree

After a few weeks, I received a call from a producer at the show.  She told me I was in the top 20, I was stunned.  Because I entered thinking; “well, at least I tried, but I didn’t really cook anything super special, or fancy”.  So round 1 mission accomplished, up next round 2… The Interview.  I just decided to be completely myself, so I made sure to share everything that I wanted to, regarding needing to follow my dreams and step out on faith and out of my comfort zone.  By the time I finished the call, I was so at peace that I just felt like “I’ve done all that I can do, and if it is for me it will be for me”.  Sure enough…Top 10, yep Top 10.  Now I am totally visualizing myself as a finalist.

I will share the rest of my experience in my next post. But I would love for you to see the video that I created and submitted to the show, and please subscribe to my page  I will be adding cooking videos regularly.

Wow, what a ride, wait until I share the experience of being in NY for the show with you all.

Cinco de Mayo

Coming off of another great Cinco de Mayo celebration this year, I thought I would share an awesome recipe that I discovered oddly enough over my Christmas holiday.  One of my favorite flavors is cinnamon and after a quick stop for drinks, my sister AskDrRenee who very rarely drinks introduced me to this gem.  The tasty drink is a Cinnamon MargaritaIMG_0364


Cinnamon Margarita

1 1/4 oz of Cinnamon Tequila

3/4 oz Triple Sec

1 oz Lemon juice

1 oz Agave Nectar

1 oz Ginger Syrup

Sip it slow and enjoy, I know this is not food related so I did include an easy taco recipe that I whipped up in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.  I used the recipe from another great site called Onion Rings and Things visit the site for a lot more great recipes.


Fish Tacos


Roast several tomatoes with Serrano chilis


Salsa:  Blend the pan roasted ingredients with a small onion, garlic, cilantro and lime juice

Combine cumin, garlic powder, cayenne or chipotle pepper, lime juice and a little bit of brown sugar for a marinade on your tilapia.


Pico de Gallo:  Dice tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, garlic, and the juice of a lime

DSC_0252Pico de Gallo


After pan frying the fish, top with cabbage, salsa and pico de gallo, for an additional topping add Mexican crema


Wood Spoon LA

Everywhere I travel, I always like to go to at least 1 dinner destination that I have read about online, or in a magazine, or gotten a referral from a fellow foodie.  Recently I traveled to LA for a week, for my day job, engineering.  My sister and I met up with a friend, who is now a resident of Cali.  When I tell you the dining experience at Wood Spoon was top notch, from service to flavors to selection…


Frango Com Quiabo (Stewed chicken with okra and polenta)


Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie and black beans


Bode (Traditional goat stew served with goat grits and bitter greens)


Rice Pudding


 For dessert, a sweet custard

IMG_0070There is nothing like dining at a restaurant that is a small business owned and operated by a woman.  Natalia Pereira, the Brazilian genius that created this Downtown LA treasure makes you feel like you stopped in a local restaurant in Brazil.  Natalia spent some time sitting and talking to us as we finished our meal.  She is a true foodie, her refreshing stories  of her cross country travels and dining experiences at some of the greatest food stops in the country was delightful.  You can taste the humility in every bite of food, and it is no wonder that some of the top chefs have nothing but wonderful things to say about her food.  I can’t wait to return to Wood Spoon on my next visit to LA.

It’s Island Time – Jamaican Jerk Whole Fish

You know, cleaning fish really isn’t that bad.  I just got over the fear of cleaning a fish.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have anything to do with getting the guts out, I haven’t graduated to that level yet.


Next time I will cut off the fins, they kept stabbing me as I was cleaning the fish (getting all of the scales off).



I cut into the flesh and added slices of butter before I smeared wet Jamaican Jerk rub all over and inside of the fish.


After letting the fish marinate for a few hours, I wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees.


The Snapper came out so tender, the jerk was fire hot, but so good, I didn’t even mind the heat.  The cooling comes from the cabbage and fried plantains.



Consider this meal for a dinner party with an island theme.  Its humble, but it is delicious, and it is easy, so that you can focus on entertaining, and not worry about fussing over the food, and not getting a chance to be a part of the party.

Simple Blackened Salmon

I love a meal that doesn’t require a great deal of preparation, but rather a simple and clean presentation and lots of flavor, like this blackened salmon recipe.  Food never has to be complicated especially if it is something you are preparing during your busy work week.  I decided to throw together a recipe that I saw on  This is such a simple and quick meal, its another meal to impress a dinner guest.

Anyone can relate to the need to have a good meal, but at the same time having demanding family, work etc.  I have added this to my go to meals to keep it healthy and tasty.

Salmon fillets and mise en place

Salmon fillets and mise en place

Cauliflower puree prep

Cauliflower puree prep

To make the puree simply steam a head of cauliflower with 3 whole cloves of garlic.  Once the vegetable is fully cooked through, transfer it and the garlic cloves to the blender, and add about 2 Tablespoons of ghee and season with salt and white pepper.  Yep, that easy

Blackening spices:  cayenne, paprika, salt, and fresh oregano and thymeBlackening spices: cayenne, paprika, salt, and fresh oregano lemon zest and thyme

Mix all of your ingredients to create the blackening seasoning


Coat only the flesh side with the blackening seasoning


Hot Canola Oil flesh side down first

Hot Canola Oil flesh side down first

Perfect medium rare

Perfect medium rare salmon

When I tell you this is a filling healthy and simple meal.  You will not feel deprived of flavor for eating this hearty healthy meal.  I served my salmon and  cauliflower puree with sautéed kale.

Valentine’s Day Lamb Chops

Now that we are in the season of love with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, lamb chops are a great way to show love to your valentine.  I thought it was intimidating at first glance, but after reviewing several recipes, I found that it was a very simple dish.  But a perfect dish for a special occasion, since the chops are pricey  The secret is to ensure the cook temp is right.  The seasonings I chose to use were fresh rosemary and garlic.

After rubbing a paste of salt, garlic, olive oil, and rosemary on the rack of lamb.  I browned the full rack of baby lamb chops on the stove and finished the chops in the oven.  Once the chops were in for about 12 minutes at 400 deg., remove them from the oven, and let them rest before slicing.

I served mine with cauliflower puree.  This recipe is so creamy, without the guilt.  I steam the cauliflower head with cloves of garlic and then blend cauliflower, garlic, salt, white pepper and ghee.  The brussels sprouts were simply sautéed with bacon and season with salt pepper and red pepper flakes.

I made this meal for my guy and he was very impressed, and asked me for details so that I could make it for himself more often.  The cauliflower puree is definitely a side that can substitute the typical mashed potato.  When they say the key to a man’s heart is his stomach, they were talking about lamb chops.

baby chops

Lamb Chops with brussels sprouts and cauliflower puree


Pot Roast

Look, I know its summer but I was feeling like trying out a slow cooking roast recipe.  I will work to make it my own, but until then… try this Anne Burrell recipe


IMG_3108 IMG_3111



During my annual trip to New Orleans, I always try to get at least one great finer dining experience.  I say “finer” dining because these days you can get fine dining quality in a more casual setting.  That being said, the 2014 NOLA trip took me to another Emeril Lagasse restaurant.

NOLA is steps from the French Quarter.  It is clear that the service at Emeril’s restaurants is consistently impeccable.  They are very attentive, and of course the food stands alone.


Roasted beet salad


Stuffed Fried Chicken Wings (stuffed with – shrimp, pork, mushrooms and veggies)

IMG_3147 Garlic Crusted Drum Fish with potato bacon hash



brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes ∙ toasted pecans ∙ caramelized onion reduction sauce



Vanilla Meringue, Key Lime Curd, Rum-Ginger Caramel Sauce, Graham Cracker Ice Cream




Moist Chocolate Cake, Marshmallows, Toasted Coconut, Vanilla Ice Cream

When you get to NOLA I have a pretty good lit of placed to have a nice dinner, NOLA is on the list.






Brussels Sprouts Anyone Will Like

This Thanksgiving I had a small gathering and wanted to ensure that all of my guests had options to be able to get full.  I had some that didn’t eat pork, some that didn’t eat meat, and others that wanted healthy options.  On the menu were the following traditional dishes:

  • roasted turkey
  • turkey gravy
  • homemade cranberry sauce
  • dressing (also known as stuffing)
  • collard greens (with turkey stock)
  • green beans (with turkey stock)
  • candied sweet potatoes
  • dinner rolls
  • Apple Pie


For the non traditional options that still provided a thanksgiving feast, the following dishes were served:

Yes, you will like these brussels sprouts and the recipe is so simple, I modified it a bit from the original.


  • 1 pound of brussel sprouts cut in half
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 mijool dates minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • Italian Seasoning to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a saute pan to medium with oil, onion, dates, and garlic, until vegetables have softened.  Add the brussels sprouts and salt, and saute for 5-7 minutes, if the brussels sprouts have not cooked through add about 1/4 cup of water, and cover to allow the veggies to steam for an additional minute.

This very straight forward recipe will convert the everyday person that would normally look past the brussels sprouts, as well as provide a healthy option for dinner.